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About Delia Murphy

The daughter of wealthy farming parents, Delia Murphy was educated at University College, Galway, and supplemented her studies by assimilating a diverse repertoire of Irish ballads. Her knowledge of the genre, both in English and Gaelic, was impressive enough to encourage the famous Irish tenor John McCormack to seek her assistance in enunciating the ballad "Una Bhan." Her rendition so struck a visiting A&R representative from HMV Records that she was duly signed to the label. One of her first recordings was the extraordinary "The Spinning Wheel." Written in 1899 by John Francis Waller, the song hauntingly evoked the courtship of young lovers measured by the inexorable winding of the spinners wheel. Murphy's ethereal West Ireland brogue and Gaelic pronunciation was reinforced by a harp arrangement that was quite remarkable for the period. With songs such as "If I Were a Blackbird," "Coortin' in the Kitchen," "Goodbye Mike and Goodbye Pat," and "Nora Creina," Murphy established herself as a traditionalist with a tremendous sense of humour and pathos. She borrowed freely, not merely from standard Irish ballads, but from obscure songs that had their origin in tinker folklore. Other songs such as "The Moonshiner" and "Boston Burglar" were American adaptations, expertly rendered Gaelic by Murphy's distinctive brogue and unique diction. Her marriage to the Ambassador Dr. Thomas Kiernan (author of British War Finances and Their Consequences) took her to the Vatican in 1941, where she spent the WWII years. While there she translated her version of "Three Lovely Lassies" into Italian. After touring the world with her ambassador husband, she retired to a farmhouse in Ontario, Canada before returning to Ireland and moving to a cottage in the Liffey Valley just west of Dublin, where she died of a heart attack in February 1971 at the age of 68.

Mount Jennings, Claremorris, Coun
16 Feb 1902

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